Friday, January 25, 2013

Elizabeth Salome Myers: A Gettysburg Hero Part Two

Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.


                                                                   ― Dante Alighieri, Inferno 



Elizabeth "Sallie" Myers

...Continuing the true story of Sallie Myers, the fighting in and around Gettysburg had subsided by late afternoon. Wounded from both sides were being brought into any structure that would shelter them in town--thousands of casualties.

Sallie Myers was called along with other women to assist the wounded. The Catholic church was just down the street from her father’s home and she went to volunteer however she could. She had always feared the sight of blood and was terrified what might be asked of her. From her diary:

On pews and floors men lay, the groans of the suffering and dying were heartrending. I knelt beside the first man near the door and asked what I could do. “Nothing,” he replied, “I am going to die.” I went outside the church and cried. I returned and spoke to the man—he was wounded in the lungs and spine, and there was not the slightest hope for him. The man was Sergeant Alexander Stewart of the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. I read a chapter of the Bible to him, it was the last chapter his father had read before he left home. The wounded man died on Monday, July 6th.

Sergeant Stewart was the first wounded man brought in, but others followed. The sight of blood never again affected me and I was among wounded and dying men day and night. While the battle lasted and the town was in possession of the rebels, I went back and forth between my home and the hospitals without fear. The soldiers called me brave, but I am afraid the truth was that I did not know enough to be afraid and if I had known enough, I had no time to think of the risk I ran, for my heart and hands were full.

I went daily through the hospitals with my writing materials, reading and answering letters. This work enlisted all my sympathies, and I received many kind and appreciative letters from those who could not come. Besides caring for the wounded, we did all we could for the comfort of friends who came to look after their loved ones.

I would not care to live that summer again, yet I would not willingly erase that chapter from my life's experience; and I shall always be thankful that I was permitted to minister to the wants and soothe the last hours of some of the brave men who lay suffering and dying for the dear old flag.

Elizabeth received a letter from Alexander's younger brother after the battle, Henry Stewart who was a preacher. He arrived in Gettysburg the following summer with his mother to see to Alexander's grave. Elizabeth had become close to Henry through their letters and a romance began after they met. They were married in 1867, and although Henry was not to live for more than a year, she had a son in 1869 named Henry Alexander Stewart.

Nationally recognized for her efforts to help the wounded at Gettysburg she eventually returned to teaching and worked with the National Association of Army Nurses. She passed away in 1922 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg. She never remarried. Her son Henry became a doctor. Her account of Gettysburg was published in 1903: How A Gettysburg Schoolteacher Spent Her Vacation in 1863.

Look for my new book on Gettysburg for teens this June from Sky Pony Press: Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest Battle of the Civil War. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon, BN.com and Indiebound. 

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